Science

Researchers Develop 'IdaBot': Will Robots In Farming Replace Farmers?

By J Russ I. , Oct 31, 2016 02:03 AM EDT
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LOEWENBERG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 14: Alexander Balynskyi, a seasonal worker from Odessa, Ukraine, ascends a ladder while picking apples at the Apfelhof Waehnert apple farm in Hoppenrade on October 14, 2016 near Loewenberg, Germany. The annual apple harvest is in full swing at the Waehnert orchard, which is in the third generation and contains over 400 apple trees. In all the farm cultivates at least 33 different kinds of apples, especially regional varieties with names like Kaiser Wilhelm, Prinz Albrecht von Preussen, Baumanns Renette, Geheimrat Breuhahn and Gelber Richard. (Photo : Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Robots have been slowly permeating various sectors of the industry from military, retail, shipping, and even made its way as a possible sexual partner of an individual. So it isn't surprising that this innovation wound its way to farming. While robots in farming isn't particularly new, the technology in this field is continuously improving as robotics becomes more advance.

Robots In Farming To Treat Crops Autonomously

A new machine called IdaBot, for instance, is going to help farmers in spraying their orchard with chemicals, a job that typically consumes a lot of time. Additional tasks for the bot is monitoring and harvesting crops, a significant work that is key in increasing the amount on a certain yield. IdaBot was developed by a team of engineers at Northwest University in Nampa, Idaho - hence the name.

Project leader Josh Griffin said the machine operates by identifying radio frequencies. "You can program into the IdaBot, tree number one, tree number five need chemicals," Griffin explained. The machine is then able to identify a specific crop based on the tag attached to the tree. The autonomous bot can also be complemented with other advancements in robotics such as drones.

These drones are tasked with capturing images of the orchard using a multi-spectral camera fitted on it. The data is then send over to a computer program which will processed the images. A lighter red on a particular tree means it needs chemical treatment, which IdaBot will carry out.

Concern For Machines Taking Over Human Jobs

The concern for some is will these robots in farming ultimately replace people? The short answer would be no. While "autonomous" have been freely thrown around in recent years, IdaBot and other machines of its kind still need humans to oversee the operation.

So a farm hand's task will eventually transition from manual labor - spraying, harvesting - to supervising these machines making the workload lighter resulting in increased productivity. Another bot that is to be used in farming is a machine that tends a farmer's crops and poison weeds that is harmful to their orchard. All of the bot's advancement isn't new save for one tech: determining which plant is to be poisoned or fertilized, Hackaday reported.

As for IdaBot, the team behind it is currently developing an app that is to be integrated into the machine's capabilities which would help in accurately estimating crop yield. Farmers are already interested in this technology as this would give them the option to pre-sell fruits months in advance. Determining the fruit count will also help farmers anticipate how many hands they'll need; how much shipping materials to prepare, and even give them an estimation on the market itself making robots in farming quite valuable indeed, Voa News reported.

 

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